The Highly Sensitive Person Test

Are you a Dandelion, a Tulip, or an Orchid? Discover your sensitivity profile through a short test developed by scientists.

Many of us have a good understanding of what it's like to be a highly sensitive person.

In fact, around one in four people (20% – 30%) have a natural biological trait known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity or Environmental Sensitivity which is associated with increased awareness and responsiveness to environmental and social cues.

Orchids represent Highly Sensitive People
Orchids are similar to Highly Sensitive People

How do I know if I am a highly sensitive person? Can I be tested for HSP?

After more than 20 years of research, it is clear that sensitivity is a well-established and scientifically verified trait of human beings.

A variety of self tests have been developed and certified by researchers, making it easy to understand if you are a highly sensitive person.

However, we don't yet have a full understanding of the genetic background of sensitivity as well as its impact on physiology, for example at the hormone and at the brain level.

New self test can determine where people fall on a sensitivity scale

For a long time, scientists thought that only a small minority of people were highly sensitive, and so they believed people could be divided into two groups: people who are highly sensitive and everyone else.

There were no specific words to describe the sensitivity traits of people who were not classified as highly sensitive.

The flower metaphor of Orchids and Dandelions was proposed in 2005 by two famous researchers, Prof Tom Boyce and Prof Bruce Ellis.

People who are more resilient and robust, and less sensitive, are like the Dandelion flower, who can thrive in pretty much any circumstances, including harsh ones.

Orchids, on the other hand, are highly sensitive persons who require a nurturing environment to develop well: they can develop unique skills and talents when raised in these particularly supportive circumstances.

Dandelions represent more resilient people
Dandelions represent less sensitive, more robust and resilient people

Low, medium and high sensitivity

Recent evidence by the research group of Prof Michael Pluess suggests that people tend to fall into one of three sensitivity groups: low, medium, and high sensitivity.

About 30% of people reflect the highly sensitive Orchids. Dandelions, who show relatively low sensitivity, make up another 30% of the population.

The remaining 40% of people, the largest group, display a medium level of sensitivity, and were named Tulips, since they are not as robust as Dandelions, but also not delicate as Orchids.

Interestingly enough, 70% of the general population shows signs of medium and high sensitivity.

Tulips represent medium sensitivity people
Tulips are medium sensitivity, they aren't as delicate as Orchids, but aren't robust as Dandelions

What does it mean if you test as an Orchid?

Like an Orchid, highly sensitive people can be easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli like loud noises, bright lights, strong smells.

They tend to process things very deeply in life and to notice subtle details that others may miss.

Highly sensitive people often have more empathy and insight than others and therefore can be more easily overwhelmed, developing nervous and mental health problems.

What is life like for an Orchid child?

As a parent, being aware of HSP traits of your children will help you to understand them better and to support them accordingly.

Here are some examples: an Orchid Child may become overwhelmed by crowds of strangers, new places or loud noises.

They can also develop low self-esteem and nervous and mental health problems as a result of being overwhelmed too often.

An Orchid Child may become extremely sensitive to pain, making it difficult for them to go through medical check-ups or procedures like getting their teeth cleaned.

It is essential for parents who recognize their child as an Orchid to educate others, such as teachers and health care professionals, about their child's unique sensitivities.

Take the Highly Sensitive Person Self Test

The Highly Sensitive Person Test was developed by the team of Prof Michael Pluess; you can find out your sensitivity profile and whether you are an Orchid, Tulip or Dandelion.

Why do I need to take this test?

This self-test will help you understand your sensitivity profile and develop strategies to lead a healthier, more fulfilling life. It may give you insights into why you are feeling the way you are feeling emotionally, or why you are experiencing certain physical symptoms.

If you're a highly sensitive person, taking this test will help you understand how to take care of your sensitive nervous system with a ripple effect on your overall health.

If you're a parent of a highly sensitive child, it will help you understand your child better and offer some valuable insights into how to help them.

Dr Linnea is a highly sensitive person
Dr. Linnea is an Orchid (HSP) and mother of highly sensitive children

What is the HSP scale?

The HSP scale, a 27-item Highly Sensitive Person Scale, is a measure created by Dr. Elaine Aron, Ph.D. based on her interviews started in 1990. The HSP scale was published in 1997. 

Aron conducted 39 interviews of people who described themselves as “highly sensitive,” particularly those that saw themselves as either “highly introverted” or “easily overwhelmed by stimulation.”

She collected answers on their lives and experiences; the respondents also answered a questionnaire about their adult attachment style, since Aron knew that attachment to a caregiver in early life—secure, anxious, or avoidant—can greatly affect adult behavior. 

They also took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a measure of introversion.

At the end of her study, Elaine Aron concluded that high sensitivity was an inherited trait.

HSPs who had good childhoods, were more successful and saw their sensitivity as an advantage.

Those with more challenging childhoods were struggling more in life and generally saw their increased sensitivity as a flaw or a problem.

Take the Highly Sensitive Person Test here:


Elaine N Aron, & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(2), 345-368.

Pluess, M., Lionetti, F., Aron, E.N., & Aron, A. (2020). People Differ in their Sensitivity to the Environment: Measurement of Sensitivity, Association with Personality Traits and Experimental Evidence

Heal Your Nervous System Resources

Free Nervous System Profile:  What is the current state of your nervous system? Find out with our free Nervous System Profile Test.

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About the Author

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea and the HYNS team help highly-driven, highly-sensitive women heal from anxiety, stress, and emotional reactivity without drastic life changes or hours of meditation and talk therapy by harnessing the power of the Nervous System.